• March 15, 2024

Happy Women’s History Month!

Happy Women’s History Month!

Happy Women’s History Month! 962 962 Welcome to Kingston Chamber Music Festival | Kingston Chamber Music Festival

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the many women who have brought their talent, artistry, and passion to the Kingston Chamber Music Festival!

In particular, work by women composers has historically been neglected, unpublished, or undervalued. Through programming music written by women in the 1800s to the 2000s, Artistic Director Natalie Zhu has helped elevate these talented composers’ meaningful contributions to chamber music.

Here are a few highlights of repertoire we’ve featured over the past few years:

In 2021, we hosted the world premiere of Tina Davidson’s Leap for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano. Davidson began composing the piece in January 2020 shortly before the world was disrupted as a result of the pandemic. “I often compose to understand myself, to unravel an old confusion or pain. I also compose to learn more than myself, to project into what might be,” Davidson says. “When the pandemic hit, I leapt into a world unrecognizable, but not without its gifts.” Read more of her thoughts about composing the piece during a tumultuous time when the word “leap” itself took on new meaning here.

In 2023, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Natalie Zhu performed Morpheus by Rebecca Clarke. Clarke, a violist, was one of the first female professional orchestral players. In 1918 she premiered some of her own compositions. Worried that her name appeared too many times on the program, she attributed some to the pseudonym “Anthony Trent.” While “Mr. Trent’s” work was praised, some critics ignored or dismissed her other works on the same recital – the ones attributed to Rebecca Clarke – confirming her fear that male composers were taken more seriously.

Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Natalie Zhu

In 1919, her Viola Sonata tied for first place in a prestigious competition where entries had been submitted anonymously. Ernest Bloch, the man she tied with, was eventually declared the winner, and when Clarke’s identity was revealed some claimed that her name must be a pseudonym of Bloch’s. “I got [some press] saying that it was impossible, that I couldn’t have written it myself,” she later wrote.

Clarke quickly became an international sensation thanks to her Viola Sonata. She is now regarded as one of the most important “women composers” of her generation, but as she sternly told a journalist once: “I would sooner be regarded as a 16th-rate composer than be judged as if there were one kind of musical art for men and another for women.”

She composed nearly 100 pieces; only 20 were published in her lifetime. Pajaro-van de Stadt and Zhu honored her legacy by performing her gorgeous and dreamy Morpheus – attributed to her actual name!

This summer, Jennifer Grim and Henry Kramer will perform the expressive and impactful Wish: Sonatine for Flute and Piano by Valerie Coleman. The piece is inspired by a poem by Fred D’Aguiar, remembering the Middle Passage in which Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery.

Named Performance Today’s 2020 Classical Woman of the Year and one of the Top 35 Women Classical Composers in Classical Music

Valerie Coleman

by The Washington Post, Coleman is also a GRAMMY®-nominated flutist. Former flutist of the Imani Winds, she is the creator and founder of this acclaimed ensemble whose 25-year legacy is documented and featured in a permanent exhibit in the classical music section at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Coleman co-founded and currently performs as flutist of the performer-composer trio Umama Womama. The name umama womama is a rhythmic play of the word “mother” in Zulu, said in singular and plural. It speaks to the complexities of its members, whose artistry as both performers and composers is informed by their relative experiences.